Category: Travel Blog

Zambezified

Kipling’s writing immortalized the great grey-green greasy Limpopo – it would be fascinating to read his words had he experienced the majesty of the Zambezi River on his travels.

What a spellbinding waterway it is.

 

Fly Fishing on the mighty Zambezi River with River God Adventures

 

The longest East flowing river on the continent of Africa surely traverses some of its most precious and game rich terrain.

Rising in the North Western reaches of Zambia and offering  life giving waters to the inhabitants of six countries on its relentless 3500 km passage to the Indian Ocean, it is used for vital electric power creation on both the Kariba and Cahora Bassa dam projects.

The spectacular Victoria Falls are probably the rivers most impressive single feature, but for anyone who has spent time on its waters the Zambezi will inevitably leave an indelible mark.

 

Victoria Falls Photo Credit Mario Micklisch 2014

 

Now we fish a lot, and if there is one river that has drawn us back again and again, it’s this one. Of course the notorious hard mouthed Tiger Fish plays a significant role in this. But its much more than that.

The Zambezi is not a particularly deep river and thus is not navigable in large boats, but it spreads out over the plains of Southern Africa, creating beautiful islands and pristine white sandbars where nature in all her glory seems to spend more time than in other places. In the drier month’s animals of every type congregate along the banks and lagoons, where the certainty of water is secure.

Huge herds of Elephant and Buffalo inhabit the islands and frolic amongst the papyrus in the searing heat, while hippo and crocodiles happily co-exist in their watery world.

 

 

We were back on the section of river between the Kariba wall and Cahora Bassa, which boasts both the Lower Zambezi National Park on the Zambian side and Mana Pools National Park opposite in Zimbabwe. Truly a Garden of Eden experience.

We stayed first at Royal Zambezi Lodge (RZL), which is one of the bigger operations in this area, offering all the luxuries and amenities expected these days in Africa, whilst at the same time doing so in an understated and friendly environment. Families with children are welcomed at RZL, which is unusual in an area rich in big wild cats and large herbivores. The fantastic well stocked bar perched on a wooden deck in the deep shade of a magnificent Sausage Tree was a favourite haunt and one could spend hours there cooling off in the sparkling pool with a cold Mosi in hand simply taking in the mighty Zambezi and its wild inhabitants.

 

A warm welcome from the Royal Zambezi Lodge

 

Unfortunately for us, an early rainstorm morphed into a full on deluge and more than 170mm of rain fell on our first night, turning the river a roiling chocolate brown. But even then we were able to entice 7 different species onto our hooks over the next couple of days as the water started to clear.

Our next stop was a wonderful new Zimbabwean operation called “River God Adventures” offering something completely new. A fully kitted out “house boat” that is able to navigate the river due to its shallow draught. Sleeping up to 8 guests comfortably, with a hot water shower and flush toilet on board, as well as a large galley churning out the kind of food that has made Zimbabwean chefs justly famous.

 

 

Although we did not have time to do the full trip, the normal itinerary is a 5-night voyage from Chirundu near the Kariba wall down the river to Masau Camp, near where the river enters Cahora Bassa. From a fishing perspective, this means that one gets to fish both the wide slow sections of the river as well as the deeper faster flowing gorge area.

The freedom to pull up onto an uninhabited stretch of beach for sundowners and dinner served al fresco under a gazebo on squeaky white sand, while taking in the sights sounds and smells of Africa is a special experience indeed and is certainly one of the reasons this operation is already running high occupancies and should be booked well in advance.

 

An evening spent on a secluded stretch of the Zambezi River

 

I am convinced the Zambezi is one of the most spectacular rivers on the planet, but I may be biased. I suggest you jump on an Airlink flight to check it out for yourself as soon as possible. I bet you get hooked too.

 

For more information please email:

Royal Zambezi Lodge reservations1@royalzambezilodge.com

River God Adventures info@rivergodadventures.com

 

Inside Angling was invited by Rico Sakko to fish in Morocco for white marlin in August 2017. Rico is an old friend who we have fished with in Angola many times, he had fished Morocco last year for white marlin and had an amazing experience. This year he was bringing his son, Vincent, who is 12 years old, and hoping to break the junior world record for white marlin. He also invited Henry Gradwell, an 85 year old fishing legend from my home town, to come and catch his first white marlin and tick his last box in terms of marlin species.

We flew Emirates direct from Durban to Dubai, leaving Durban at 7.30pm and landed in Dubai at 05.30am. (their time) after an 8 and a half hour flight. We flew from Dubai at 7.30am and landed in Casablanca at 12.45 Moroccan time. We watched movies on the flights, including ‘Casablanca’ the old black and white film made in the 1940’s starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. We were exhausted when we arrived, as we hadn’t got much sleep at all, with a family with three noisy, seat kicker kids behind us on the second flight.

We were collected at the airport by our skipper, John Huntington, from California USA, and his deckhand Ousman. Ousman is a Senegalese, who fishes fro the Senegal national team back home. They drove us to Mohammedia, which took just over half an hour of interesting driving. The Moroccans drive fast and use the whole road.

We checked in to the Mohammedia Avanti hotel, which is four star and is considered the best option in town. Rates are around $100 per night for a room and breakfast, not bad value.
The rooms weren’t ready yet when we arrived , so we got some beers at the bar just off reception. Three Casablanca beers and a coke cost us 280 Dirhams, around R390.
We won’t be doing too much of that then!

We had a shower, then walked along the beach front promenade looking for a place to eat. It is lined with little al fresco type café’s, and it is a long weekend, so the beach was very busy as are the promenade and the café’s. There were fun rides, slides, a big pool with paddle boats, ponies and horses to ride, vendors selling nuts, sweets, donuts etc. Nobody bothered us at all. The beach was very clean, with plenty of people and umbrellas. It only gets dark here after 8.30pm.
The promenade smelt quite strongly of urine, which wasn’t too pleasant, but you kind of get used to it after a bit.
We ate at a little spot called ‘Lips Snacks’ . Pam had a Pizza and I ordered a Tagine, very excited to taste the local food. My tagine arrived and had cooking oil and a fried egg in it and a nice plateful of chunks of crusty bread. Hmm not quite what I had planned for dinner. Pam’s pizza was nice. I had an apple juice, which tasted much like vanilla, but obviously had grated apple in it, not bad, Pam had mango juice which was very good.

A guy dropped off a few nuts on our table, which we ate, they were salted and delicious. We asked him for some, which he sold us, and put four quarter sheets of yellow pages telephone book on the table, one with almonds, one with peanuts and one with pumpkin seeds, all salted. We chewed away merrily on them all, enjoying the salt, I was commenting on how the pumpkin seeds were giving us plenty of roughage when we noticed that the locals were peeling theirs and piling the empty shells on the fourth piece of paper, by now we had already eaten quite a few…

The meal was cheap, in total 137 Dirhams. We headed back to the hotel, as we had to meet Rico and the owner of the boat, ‘7 Days’, Mohammed Filali at 8pm. We met with them and chatted a bit, before heading for bed at around 8.30, exhausted.

We slept till 5.30, then got up, showered and headed for breakfast on the first floor of the nightclub at the hotel. The breakfast was pretty disorganized, I think we were too early and 6.30 is their actual opening time.
We left the hotel at around 7.30, stopped at a bakery on the way to the harbor for some fresh baguettes, croissants etc. and headed for the boat. 7 Days is a lovely 43 foot Egg Harbour sports fisher.

She was moored next to Gladius, another charter sportfisher, that had an aussie skipper, Jonno, and South African skipper Stuart Simpson was on board as well. They were trying to get a record white marlin for the boat owner fishing on fly with 4lb tippet. Apparently this is a very frustrating challenge, with the fly even breaking off on the cast sometimes.

We headed out and discovered that there was quite a big swell running and we all started feeling queasy on the way out. I chundered, so did Pam, Shaun looked pale, so Pam gave him a pill. Vincent was feeling crap and Rico was sweating and feeling terrible, we blamed the sausages that he had at breakfast, they smelt suspect to me, and none of the rest of us had any.

We headed out and stopped not too far out in about 40m of water and jigged for mackerel with sabiki jigs, collecting about 30 or so.

It was a 20 mile run out to the fishing grounds. The fish were in around 150m of water, so that is where we started.

We hadn’t been pulling the teasers long when I glanced down and saw the electric blue of a pair of lit up pecs and a tail below and behind one of the teasers. We all cast whatever we had handy and the fish didn’t stick around or eat anything. Not long after that a pack of three fish came in on the teasers and Rico hooked one on a live mackerel that he had cast at one of the fish.
He handed the rod to Vincent, who fought and landed a white marlin of around 25 kg’s. It was the first white marlin that I had ever seen, a very acrobatic and aerobatic fish, jumping a lot. Next fish up, Vincent hooked himself on a live mackerel and circle hook, and he fought this one longer, it was a bigger fish. He was using a Talica 12 with 30lb mono and a light trolling rod.
I jumped into the water with the go pro when the fish was near the boat and filmed it being landed and released, it was very tired, a good fish, not far off the junior record of 102lbs.

The next fish that was hooked was handed to Pam, who did a good job and landed her first Marlin, a fish of around 35kg’s. All the while I was now casting plugs, and soft plastics rigged on circle hooks and trying to get one for myself. The fish did come in to my lures and came close to eating, but none actually bit.

The teasing setup is not ideal, with two teasers being run off electric reels above the skipper’s head and two dredge lines in the water with daisy chains on them. All teasers were still in the water when the fish had come in, and the boat kept stopping and starting, never really lying still. The fish were locking on to one teaser, coming in hot, but totally focused on the teaser, they liked green a lot. With two livebaits also being thrown into the water each time, my poppers and plastics were just one of many options, and unsurprisingly, I didn’t get a fish.

Rico hooked and landed another fish, the 4th for the boat for the day. Not bad, we raised about 10 fish in total. Rico pulled his fish harder and he got it in quicker than the others. I jumped in and got some footage of the fish a bit more lit up, as well as seeing and filming a free swimmer that was nearby. The water was stunningly clean and it was such a pleasure to cool off for a few minutes.

After that we raised another fish, which the boat owner threw a live mackerel at, but lost when he tightened up too early, pulling the circle hook out of the fish’s mouth.

We had a chat on the way back, and decided to change things up a bit tomorrow and try to get the crew all doing their jobs better and less chaos, we will see how tomorrow goes. There is plenty of potential, and plenty of fish, so it should be good!

We started heading back at 4.30pm, and hit the docks in good daylight and spent a bit of time setting up more tackle for tomorrow. Then we headed back to the hotel, had a shower and the four of us, Pam, Rico, Vincent and myself went for Pizzas on the promenade. Came home at around 9.30, well tired again and ready for a good night sleep.

Tomorrow we will only fish one person at a time for each fish we raise, and hopefully do better. Rico will handle the teaser, John just drive the boat, and Pam can act as a spotter. We will see how it goes.

Day 2:

Breakfast at 6.30am, more organized this time. We were picked up at 7am, and taken to the boat. We stopped for mackerel again on the yozuri’s, and caught a bunch of them near a channel marker bouy.

We headed out to the same area as yesterday with a different approach in mind. We only put out one teaser, on a rod, flatline from the starboard side, with Rico handling that. We rigged a green kona, their favourite from yesterday, with a ballyhoo in the middle, sewn firmly onto a mono loop with floss.

On the port corner we put out a dredge bar with a shoal of reflective tape fish off it and a dive weight to keep it down.

I rigged one rod with a popper and assist, and the other rod with an 8 inch soft plastic jerkbait rigged on a wire pigtail, on an 8/0 vmc tournament circle hook. I stowed them both in the holders on the back of the fighting chair. One Trevala 6’6” MH with a Spheros 6000 and 50lb power pro max cuatro line, with a 60lb fluorocarbon leader. The other a Terez 40lb 7’ stick with a Stella 8000 reel and 50lb Max Cuatro.

Within ten minutes of putting the teaser out we had a fish up. Rico cranked the teaser in, bringing the fish in close while I made my cast. The fish was not overly interested in my soft plastic that I cast at it, and it disappeared after e few seconds. We trolled around again, then picked up the same fish again on the teaser going over the same spot. I sent the plastic in again and wiggled it around enticingly and the fish came and made a swipe, missing. It turned, came back and ate the plastic, sinking down to where I could barely see it. It didn’t turn or move off, just kind of hung down there, looking like it was chewing the plastic. I had to do a slow count to six, praying that it wouldn’t spit the lure before I started tightening up the drag. I was fishing with the drag as loose as I could while still managing to retrieve the lure. As the line went tight the fish started to take off, it was spectacular. It leapt straight out of the water and was incredibly aerial, racing along, jumping, twisting, turning. There was very little line drag in the water and the speed and power was awesome to behold. The braid being so direct was a little disconcerting and I would definitely use a mono topshot next time, as you don’t need to cast far, and some stretch would be nice to take the shock. With all of that jumping and twisting that fish managed to change the shape of the circle hook, as I was fighting it pretty hard, landing it in around ten minutes or so. I was actually impressed at how little the hook bent after the amount of pressure I put on the fish.

It was one of my most spectacular catches ever. That fish coming in, lit up, with those neon blue pecs glowing in the purple water, and the shimmering blue tail sweeping behind. Watching its reactions and movements as it was so visible, it came in right beneath me, and ate the plastic no more than 5 metres from the back of the boat. The stamina and energy to then sustain a fight with spectacular jumps, some high, some long, but repeated again and again, showing off his spectacular body was simply amazing.

I was elated, stoked, absolutely thrilled to experience it and my trip to Morocco was already made, right there.

After that I decided to try with fly. The fish however, seemed less keen to play that game. I had shots at five fish on fly, and most of them came in, had a good look and refused to eat. The last one came up from beneath and ate the fly side on, perfectly, and taking me by surprise. It ate the fly between strips with my stripping hand off the line and I couldn’t get my hand onto the line quickly enough before it had spat the fly again. Good to get aneat, but sad that it didn’t hang on a mite longer. It gives me hope for tomorrow though.

We came back at the same time as yesterday and arrived at the hotel, to find Henno in the lobby. We had a beer together in the pub, then a quick shower and headed back to the promenade for dinner again. This time I had spaghetti bolognaise, while Pam had chicken fillet with mushroom sauce, chips and salad, it looked great too. We had banana juice with our meals, the fresh fruit juices here are excellent.

The people are so relaxed, there is no begging, nobody pressuring you to buy anything. The poor people seem to be very uneducated, there is a big class gap. But everybody seems to be very pleasant.

Our tally today was eight fish raised for the day and two landed, as Rico hooked one on a livebait after it had refused the fly, and Vincent landed it. Sadly it had got gut hooked and regurgitated its stomach. Anyhow, Rico cut the line and released it, so hopefully it will swallow its stomach and be ok.

Day 3:
We headed out with Henno this morning, Pam stayed at the hotel, tired. We went west this time, towards Casablanca, where Rico had enjoyed all of his success last year fishing with Trevor Hansen.

We stopped at a channel marker bouy to get mackerel, got a bunch and moved on. It was very overcast and actually quite cool when the boat was moving.

We ran for about an hour and a half, then put out teasers, with both teasers running off the two electric reels above the skipper, and Rico’s dredge bar on a line off the back. We worked around some long line and gill netting boats, small ones, and their nets or lines. Nothing, no birds, just a few dolphins which came and swam briefly in front of the boat, but lost interest quite quickly, they were big and dark with a hooked fin, almost pilot whale size.

We had no action at all until after 1pm. The sun started to come out and a fish came onto the teasers. Rico cast a live mackerel out and hooked the fish, then handed the rod to Henno. I took some pics from above with my still camera of the fish coming charging in, with its fins all lit up. Then I went downstairs and put on mask, snorkel and fins and jumped in. I swam along the line until it disappeared into the misty blue depths. After a bit I saw something white, which materialized into remoras, hanging onto the sides of the marlin. Then the fish became visible, blue from directly above and I swam above it as it slowly rose up to the surface, beautiful. Shaun in the meantime flew the drone and got some cool footage from above of the fish jumping etc.

The line got wrapped around the keel and the prop of the boat and I swam over and untangled it, so that Henno could continue fighting his fish. Rico leadered it, then it jumped and he let go, then he leadered it again, but it took off, and the line wrapped around the tip of the rod and broke off. A landed fish for Henno, but sadly no photo.

We carried on trolling teasers in the nice bright sunshine, but there was no sign of anymore fish. The baitballs on the sounder were all deep, around 100m, we were working a depth of around 140m, as that is where the best action had been the last few days.

We pulled lines up at 4.30pm and headed in. The other charter boats had very little action too, with only one other white being landed. Just a really quiet day. The barometer was sitting at 1015.26 not too sure how that is here, I will have to check tomorrow.

Came back to the hotel, showered, cleaned my mask with toothpaste, and waited for Pam, who arrived after 7pm. She had been out and about in Mohammedia, checking out street vendors and shops. She bought a couple of small Tagines to take home.

We went to a street side restaurant near the Kasbah ( old Arabian market place with arches and a roof) for dinner. The restaurant was on the edge of a village square, with a big fountain in the middle, opposite the arched entrance to the Kasbah. There were lots of people walking around and some sitting on the edge of the fountain chatting. There were street vendors with fruits such as plums, peaches, bananas, prickly pears, figs, dates etc on carts and tables. For dinner we had cows head, bread and bean, chick pea and noodle soup, called Harira. We also had rotis, orange juice and sweet mint tea with little blocks of sugar to add. The whole meal for six people came to 280 durhams. Had a bit of a walk around the Kasbah afterwards, checking out the stalls and street food. Plan to go there tomorrow night and just eat streetfood snacks, maybe some nice kebabs and things.

There were stalls with olives in all sorts of states, stuffed, pipless, with pips, pickled, marinated in chili etc.
There were also stalls with spices, garlic, ginger, cumin, dhania seeds, chili, saffron, turmeric etc.

The cows head had the consistency of pulled pork and had some soft, fatty bits. It was flavoured with cumin, and not much salt, but there was salt on the table and bowls of chili sauce, which actually made it spicy and delicious.

The people are very courteous, not ever approaching or hassling us, and not making much eye contact, but if you engage them they are really friendly and pleasant. They walk slowly, eat slowly, talk and have a lot of family time, I guess the no booze thing helps. They seem indifferent to pics being taken, though I try not to be obvious. =There are very few women wearing burkas, but they are mostly Muslims. We hear the muezzin calling the people to prayer from the mosques at the appropriate prayer times.

We saw few, if any tourists. The Kasbah and streets were humming with local people, especially at night. From children to teens, adults and oldies, everybody seems to wander the streets at night and socialize out there.

Very few people seem to be able to speak or understand English. The google translator app is a great idea! They are very keen to try and make themselves understood though, and have lots of patience and courtesy.

We are only going out at 8am tomorrow as the low tide will be at around 10 am and we need it to start pushing before the fish come on.

Day 4:
We got up at 6.30am, went to breakfast at 7.30am and were collected by John at 8am. He told us that another boat, “One More”, which is the top boat in the area, had gone up to fish around Rabat yesterday, around 35 miles East of Mohammedia. They raised 18 fish and landed 11. Yoh, on a day when we only saw one fish!

Obviously our plan then changed and we unanimously decided to head off towards Rabat and look for those fish ourselves.
We ran for a couple of hours, arriving in the area at 11am. We started trolling our teasers, with no interest shown by any fish until after 1.30pm. The first fish to come up followed a teaser in, but the captain didn’t take the boat out of gear, or the teasers out of the water. I shouted at him to stop the boat, he said it was stopped, but there was boiling propwash coming out from below the boat and my livebait was skipping on the top, beating itself to death. In fact when I pulled it in, it was stone dead. We had a bit of a chin wag about what it was that we were trying to do, and the importance of getting the teasers out of the water and the boat to stop, then continued. That fish had not even lit up, we only could see the dorsal out of the water behind the teaser, twitching and shivering the way they do.

About half an hour or so later another fish made a brief appearance, the dorsal fin showing for a second behind the teaser, then disappearing. We dropped livebaits back and it came up onto the surface and sniffed around the livies, then disappeared for good.
We trolled for almost an hour, then another fish came in on the teasers, this one was lit up a bit, but still not a hot fish. We dropped mackerel back and the fish ate one. I held the rod and let the line go tight and the circle hook find its mark. The fish was very lazy, not running at all, just hanging around the back of the boat, not jumping, just lifting its head from the water a couple of times and shaking it. I pulled it in very quickly. Ousman grabbed the leader, then the bill, the hook fell out and he somehow lost his grip on the bill, so the fish was gone, but counts as a landed fish, just no photo’s.
It was very frustrating, all of that time and effort put in for a fish that gave less of a pull than a 5kg grouper.

I took a look at the Barometer, it had dropped quite sharply from 1012hpa to 1010hpa in the space of ten minutes, then it started to go back up, the bite came on the drop. The barometer has been steadily dropping over the last 4 days, maybe this is part of the reason why the fish have gotten harder to catch. The water temp has been a steady 23.5 degrees and is clean and deep indigo. It was very overcast again today, with the sun making some appearances during the afternoon, but never for very long. None of this explains why we had no fish, as well as all of the other boats yesterday in the area off Mohammedia and Casablanca, and yet One More, had raised 18 and landed 11 yesterday, how localized is the barometric pressure? They were 35 miles east of us, could they have been experiencing different pressure? Or was it something else? There did seem to be more birds around the Rabat area, but mostly gulls and shearwater, no terns at all. There were mainly groups of them floating on the water, not a great sign.

We have decided to take our off day tomorrow and use the day to take the train to Casablanca and go and explore the market there and do some filming of local sights, culture etc.

Went out to the restaurant next to the Kasbah again. I got to have my first proper Tagine! It was a delicious one with chicken and raisins, which I ate with flat bread. Pam and I ended up sharing it, as there was a lot of food. We also had sweet mint tea, poured from silver teapots into small glasses. Pam ordered couscous, which never arrived, but we were happy, as we had plenty to eat. The food at this place is ridiculously cheap, Henno’s salad cost less than R15 and would be enough for four people as a good salad.
After dinner Pam and I took a walk around the Kasbah, with me taking pics of the stalls, people and scenes. I was trying to get natural, unposed pics, I had to be a bit sneaky, and got shouted at by some dude, and finger waggled by some old lady. I am just starting to learn and enjoy street photography.
Pam and I walked back to the hotel, then carried on for a little bit along the promenade. There were still plenty of people around, kids still riding ponies and paddling the little paddleboats in the inflatable pool at the beach, even though it was around 11.15pm. The Moroccans are real night owls!

Day 5

We had a much needed sleep in, only meeting for breakfast at 9.30am. We then caught a taxi, which we went and found ourselves after asking reception to call some. Service is not a big priority around here, but the people are good and honest. We left Henno at the hotel, as we were going to walk a lot, and it would have been too much for him.
The taxis took us to the Gare (Station), where we bought 2nd class tickets to Casablanca, a 25minute train ride away. We jumped on the train and enjoyed the aircon and comfort of a nice ride, going past slums, and all sorts of buildings, one thing that stood out to me was satellite dishes everywhere. These guys are big on Satelite TV. They are not that big on painting the exteriors of their buildings though, those are generally pretty decrepit.

At the station in Casablanca we used the bathroom, as there was not likely to be another easy spot, then headed out. We caught taxis, red ones here in Casablanca, as opposed to the turquoise ones in Mohammedia. Also much more costly. The ride from the Avanti Hotel in Mohammedia had been 13 Durhams and was further. The cost in Casblanca the short way to the market was 50 Durhams.

We went in to the fish market first, I wanted to see what sea life they were harvesting and eating in the area. It was very clean and hygienic, I would say the cleanest and best fish market I have been to in Africa. The smell was not strong or offensive, there was lots of crushed ice, most of the things like oysters, crabs, mussels, some sort of pencil bait, lobsters etc were still alive. All products were well presented and neat, and everyone was very friendly and happy to chat and take pics with us. They loved Pam (of course) and all wanted pics with her, she thought it was her blonde hair, but it turns out that is her blue eyes. The Moroccans are big on eyes, and a lot of their art depicts a woman’s eyes.

We then went down the road to the old medina, where we walked through narrow alleys and stalls of everything from leather work, spices, argan oil, lots of jewelry stands, European football shirts, Louis Vitton bags, honey, Calvin Klein boxers, you name it. Lots of lovely fresh fruit and veg, not like woolies, the real deal.
Then we went and sat at a street side café’ and had tagines and bread. One with veg and a bit of meat in the middle, and the other fish balls in a tasty gravy, both very nice. When the time came for people to go to prayers, they up and left, and just then a couple of people came around asking for leftovers, basically beggars, but not a hassle. We did have two or three women with babies and scarves covering their faces and hair, tapping on a shoulder and saying please, then pointing at the baby and making eating signals. Casablanca is different to Mohammedia, Much bigger, and more people. A b it like comparing Vilanculos to Inhassoro in Mozambique.

We chatted to the honey seller lady, a really nice woman, about the hand with the eye trinkets and symbols we had been seeing at various places. She explained that it was to ward off envious or evil eyes. She had a cool stand with lots of old pots and things and bee hives and even a full bee keeping suit and a smoker.

We walked back to the station, checking out stalls along the outside of the medina. We bought a cover for our bed, a lovely blue cloth. We also stopped and had delicious ice cold, freshly squeezed orange juice for 10 durhams a cup. The peeled oranges are kept in a cooler box of ice, and when you order then he cuts them in half and puts each half into the squeezer, like a big garlic crusher. About three oranges make a cup of juice.

We bought second class tickets to go back to Mohammedia, and got booted out of first class by the conductor, we suspected that we may have got it wrong, the seats were nicer and the aircon so cool…

We took a taxi back to the hotel and had a short nap, then met the others in the lobby. Shaun has also booked in now, as the landlord at the place he was staying (skipper’s apartment) has found out that he was there and said no ways, he must move out.

We went along the promenade to the pizza place, Corsica, and had dinner. Pam and I wanted shwarma’s and the waiter rode his bike to the Kasbah to fetch some for us. Rico had pasta, Vincent had chicken steak with mushroom sauce, Henno Mexican Pizza and me, Pam and Shaun had shwarmas.

Day 6

We were picked up at 6am by John and went to the harbor. We struggled for bait in foggy conditions, but eventually got enough. We headed out, and as we came out of the fog bank, there was a super pod of spinner dolphins in front of us, and plenty of shearwaters paddling around on the surface. We stuck with them for a bit, with Shaun standing in the bows with his go pro, filming. We then moved on to the 140m area and put teasers out, one daisy chain of squids on each side off the electric reels above the skipper. One pink and one green, each with a chugger on the end pulling a smoke trail.

We had no hits for a few hours, with other boats also raising no fish. Finally a fish came up on the teasers, glowing pecs and tail, excited and hot. He got stuck to the green daisy chain, and followed it right past the stern, to the side, where the teaser left the water. He started scouting around, and I dropped my live mackerel back a bit and he picked it up. I watched the line speed up off the spool of the reel with the bail arm open, then clicked over and let it tighten up, fish on!

This was a smallish fish, but full of energy. It did lots of spectacular jumps, close to the boat, as I kept the drag fairly tight. I was using one of Rico’s Terez rods, with an 8000 size reel, with a 30lb mono topshot, not very long, connected to braid beneath. A good setup for these fish.

I enjoyed the fight and landed him pretty quickly, with Rico leadering it and Ousman grabbing the bill. We brought it on board for a present, then back overboard for a quick revival and release.

This turned out to be the only fish for the day, the rest of the day we trolled and trolled, but couldn’t raise a fish.

This evening we had a shwarma that Shaun fetched us from the margane, where burrito girl was making amazing ‘burritos’ according to our skipper. It was an excellent wrap type thing filled with spicy mince, chips and I don’t know what else, but mighty tasty! Not a pita bread as we know it, more of a wrapped bundle of food, much like a burrito.

We had a couple of beers with Stuart and Jonno from Gladius at the hotel and heard some cool stories about fishing for blue marlin at Cape Verde.

Jonno was telling us that next week the locals here in Morocco would be killing sheep on a day called Eid El-Kebir, apparently every family in the country would kill a sheep on this day and dress up in their beat clothes and feast. A celebration and re enactment of Abraham’s sacrifice to God. Apparently the flies would be wild and there would be skins piled up on the sides of the roads, with nobody wanting them. This festival was happening a week after we left Morocco, and sheep were beginning to be stockpiled in various places.

He also told us that he had been doing seasons in Morocco for 6 years and a lot had changed socially and culturally, with rules being relaxed. Morocco is at the western edge of the Middle East, the gateway to Africa and the Middle East from Europe. It is therefore, more influenced by European culture than some other Muslim countries are.

Tomorrow we start our journey home, which is going to be long, via Dubai again. It has been an amazing week. I have thoroughly enjoyed the white marlin, the people and the sights, tastes and experiences of Morocco. I would definitely come here again. The fishing for white marlin is amazing. They are so visual, so exciting! Rico is planning on chartering a boat for the full season next year, and then put groups together to fill it. I think he will do well, it is an amazing trip and an incredible experience.

The white marlin are in the same sort of size and power category as sailfish. Pretty much any tackle that is good for sails will be perfect for white marlin. They are even more visually exciting than sailfish, in that they have that electric blue glow on their fins when lit up, and they are as aerial or more so than sailfish. Teasing them in and then flicking live baits, lures or flies at them is very exciting. They can be finicky about feeding at times, but that seems to be the nature of these fish, a little unpredictable, but tons of fun!

Read more of Tommo’s Blogs on Fishtube.TV

The vast open spaces of the Northern Cape in South Africa are breathtaking. Not in the way a Renaissance Cathedral in Rome, or your first glimpse of the Grand Canyon would do it, but rather a slow realization that here you need to calm down and breathe, or somehow be out of place.

The vegetation is sparse and desert like, with scraggly bushes eeking out a life virtually devoid of water. Koppies of granite and great boulders steam on the landscape in perpetuity and serene, seemingly endless vistas, devoid of man, draw the eye.

But simply add water and this outwardly inhospitable land sustains crops of all kinds. Huge vineyards stretch to the horizon and fruit of every variety thrive. The small towns are quaint splashes of green against the backdrop of the desert and the local people friendly and relaxed.

Then through all this runs South Africa’s largest river, the mighty Orange.

The mighty Orange River

A mate of mine, Eddie, who likes fishing, called to ask where I thought he should take a group of 14 male friends (myself included) to celebrate his 60th birthday and enjoy a bit of fishing along the way. After considered thought, I suggested he do the 4 -night canoe trip down the Orange River below Augrabies Falls. I had been down this stretch some years ago with my whole family, ranging in age from 6 to 60, and then been back twice since to fish and film there.

Given that the Seychelles trip I also mentioned would have cost him a couple of million Rand, Eddie grabbed at this far more reasonably priced option like a hungry Pitbull snatching a steak off the braai. At less than a fifth of the cost it’s not surprising really.

One call to Craig Eksteen, owner operator of Kalahari Outventures (KO), who has exclusivity on this section of the river, and it was all set up.

Eddie couldn’t pay the deposit fast enough, especially when I mentioned Seychelles again in passing.

As the August date drew closer there was a flurry of activity on the Whats- App chat group set up for the purpose. Warnings were posted regarding whistling in front of spouses while packing, and thoughts concerning how much a case of whisky weighed, given that space was at a premium on the boats, were bandied about. More consideration was given to the potential problem of disappearing ice than at the last global warming summit. There was even the odd mention of fishing tackle.

The diverse routes that Airlink provide make getting to Upington a breeze

A jaunty bunch of Joburgers in large SUV’s fetched me at Upington Airport. I had used the far more comfortable option of flying Airlink from Pietermaritzburg via Jhb, leaving in the morning and arriving before lunch. As all tents, chairs, cold boxes and food are provided, flying is definitely worth considering, especially if time is tight. A transfer of around an hour and a half is easily arranged with KO.

The vast vineyards of the Northern Cape

We meandered our way to Augrabies, past vineyards and farm stalls, stopping only to check on the ice in the cold boxes and for a delicious lunch at Vergelegen Country House in Kakamas, a town not much bigger than a large TOPS at Spar bottle store. How they managed to serve 15 (our numbers had grown slightly) hungry men who descended on them with no warning, and to do it with panache and humour remains a mystery. But if you’re after superb Karoo lamb and hospitality, in the local vernacular, “maak a draai”

We drove through the town of Augrabies- but I was opening a beer and missed it.

The Augrabie Falls are worth a pitstop

We weren’t stopping, but fortunately I’ve seen the spectacular 60-meter waterfall named after the town before. With immense water pressure ripping through a narrow 240 meter high gorge its busy creating – it’s well worth a turn.

Due to the dithering of 4 truckloads of semi-inebriated males of all ages, we were now racing against the sun beginning to set somewhere over Namibia. It behooves a gentleman to be seated with a wee dram to hand at the going down of the sun-I was sagely advised.

Accordingly, in a billowing cloud of dust we finally arrived, in good time, at the well-appointed self- catering farmhouse Craig uses as a base for his trips. The fire was set in the boma looking onto the golden orb dropping away in a blaze of orange and purple captured all around in the dust hanging over the immense barren vista.

Since I last did this trip, Craig has added to his fleet of old canoe’s and now also uses the more spacious and stable Ark type inflatables. Fortunately, we were issued these and early morning packing began.

This was an amusing scene as us city dwellers suddenly realized we had space only for the bare essentials and needed to make the heart wrenching decision on which of the 3 sweatshirts and 4 pairs of underpants we brought all this way should be left behind. It was essential to allow space for the whisky.

Finally, locked and loaded, we meandered by vehicle through vast vineyards and date plantations, arriving at the broad expanse of the river as if to an oasis in an Arabian desert. A quick safety briefing and the motley crew staggered onto their boats and wobbled away onto the water like newborn ducklings. Ugly ducklings, I might add.

3 days of fun, laughter, camaraderie and friendship ensued on that river. Stopping to fly fish in likely looking rapids and holes along the way, then pulling up on a sandy beach in time for sunset and making it home for a night where the galaxies sparkled overhead and the fire crackled with good cheer. With the help of the excellent and willing young river guides camp was set and good hearty food prepared. Other than the odd scorpion there are no dangerous animals to worry about, which is an unusual sensation on a remote river in Africa.

We did not see another human being for 3 days. There are few places left where that’s possible.

The water was colder than the Smallmouth Yellow fish we were after prefer when feeding, yet this fishery is so protected by distance and its custodians, that every single person (including some novices) on our trip caught fish on fly. The Orange River this far down is clean enough to drink and clear enough to see the vast numbers of fish moving below. Long may it last.

So Eddies birthday on the Orange was memorable in every way and I was reminded that this region of Southern Africa is a jewel, much like the rough diamonds that enticed men here in the first place.

Seriously, if you’re planning a family excursion, a bunch of friends on a break, or a proper fishing trip, consider this fun option….

It’s really hard to beat.

There is arguably only one place in the world where the boundaries of four countries meet. 

This “quadripoint” includes Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe and occurs at the confluence of the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers.

This would then potentially make it possible, for example, to catch a Tiger fish in four countries in one afternoon without getting off the boat.

Anyone keen to give that a go?

Of course wherever boundaries occur in rivers there is the potential for conflict. 

On the Botswana side of the river lies the Chobe National Park teeming with game of every description. There is no fencing to stop these animals moving freely through the rivers and onto the islands between countries. Although the game is not hampered or exploited within view of the various tourism establishments in this area, should they cross into Zambia their visit may well be short lived. But it seems they have worked this out themselves if the barren cattle lined banks of that country are any indication.

Impalila Island, just a stone’s throw from Kasane (Botswana) “belongs” to Namibia and is the ideal base from which to fish this area. It’s less built up and touristy than Kasane itself, with only three luxury lodges perched far apart on this large piece of land.

 

Ichingo Chobe River Lodge is nestled there among huge shady trees overlooking fast flowing rapids which are not easy to navigate or set nets in and thus tend to produce larger specimens of Tiger fish year round, as well quiet solitude. 

The Lodge was the brainchild and home of the late Ralph Oxenham who was legendary in these parts, as much for his tenacity and acerbic wit, as for his love of fishing. The guides too are passionate about the area as a whole, but have an inherited affinity with those in search of fish. Be that as it may, this is a destination where a non- fishing family could happily spend a few days of idyllic holiday. Picnics on the island sand, game walks, drives and cruises, day visits to Victoria Falls, or simply lolling by the sparkling pool are all options, handled by the management and staff professionally and with a smile. The accommodation is in large comfortable en suite safari tents with mosquito nets, air-conditioning and overhead fans. 

The western boundary of the island is called the Kasai Channel, a large body of water which joins the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers and is home to an annual mini Barbel Run, normally in late June or July. At this time of year large schools of these remarkable catfish move into the channel and feed on smaller baitfish, often chasing them from the shallows into slightly deeper water where the voracious Tigers are waiting to snap them up. Flocks of noisy water birds move with the feeding fish, settling briefly on the overhanging papyrus and pouncing on any left -over morsels, and are therefore a good indication of where to cast a line for the hungry Tigers.

But fishing is only one aspect of interest here. As mentioned, the Chobe National Park is a pleasant afternoon sundowner cruise from Impalila and there is something particularly splendid about drifting within meters of drinking herds of Elephant and Buffalo, or a family of frolicking Baboons on an outing. The animals seem less threatened by waterborne humans than those in smoky Land Cruisers. Pods of Hippo grunt and giggle while the stealthy Crocodiles eye one hungrily from their watery world. 

Chobe itself could not be described as a remote African experience, there are simply too many tourists in this area for that. Given that the glorious Victoria Falls are only an hour’s drive downriver, this is not surprising. However, its easy accessibility both by road and air mean that it is a reasonably priced option for visiting and fishing the Zambezi conveniently and in comfort.

In fact, using Airlinks daily direct flight from Jhb to Kasane can have you from the morning traffic in Sandton to your first cast after lunch.

So what are you waiting for?

If you’re looking for the quintessential KZN Midlands experience with rolling mist shrouded hills, roaring log fires and pristine Trout lakes and rivers, you’re in luck. Invermooi Farm, under new ownership, has undergone a major facelift and now offers superb accommodation in a number of refurbished cottages complimenting what has always been considered one of the most beautiful farms in this spectacular area.

I first visited Invermooi as a young boy and have been fortunate enough to have fished the crystal clear dams and one of the best stretches of Mooi River for over 45 years…up until recently this was a well known horse stud, but has now been converted to a working farm. The new owner has put much effort into felling large tracts of pine forest which has only enhanced the appeal of this spectacular property.

There are 4 beautifully appointed serviced cottages, varying in size, available for self catering rental. Even for those who are not keen on some of the best Trout fishing in the country, there are stunning walks and mountain biking trails meandering through the farm and aluminum boats with electric motors on the dams available for hire.

The farm is situated about 20 kilometers from the town of Nottingham Road on the Midlands Meander, where restaurants, pubs, and shopping are all available. Gowrie Golf Course is also situated in the town for those keen on a round of golf.

 

For a family holiday or simply a romantic couples getaway, with fishing of course, Invermooi Farm is hard to beat. Drop into the Wildfly shop on your way through Notties to pick up a couple of the flies that are working and latest info.

 

We look forward to seeing you in the Midlands soon.

Getting to Mount Kenya by vehicle from Nairobi is interesting to say the least.

It’s 160 km and takes around 5 hours on what are ostensibly tar roads which would have Mr. MacAdam spinning in his grave. The gay abandon with which Kenyans drive is akin to putting a bunch of drunk teenagers into dodgem cars and advising them not to crash into each other.

Road signs and markings, if there are any, are really more for adding a splash of colour to the terrain rather than having any actual bearing on the way the traffic behaves. Overtaking is a bit like playing chicken with a chicken and often leaves passengers clucking accordingly.

The drivers themselves though, seem to consider this mayhem completely normal, hardly batting an eyelid as their unsuspecting passengers hurtle towards the windscreen each time they slam on brakes to avoid a certain head on collision.

One needs to be particularly careful when sucking on a cold bottle of Tusker beer snatched from the cold box in the rare moments when both hands are not required to maintain contact with your seat and you are not squealing like a debutante seeing her first party dress. The neck of the bottle is likely to knock out your front teeth, and possibly much worse, if not in full control when snatching a mouthful between violent overtaking maneuvers.

The first glimpse of the monolith that is Mount Kenya is impressive. Rising 5200 meters into the sky, with smatterings of snow near the summit, it’s difficult to believe you’re virtually on the equator in Africa.

Once off the main road a sense of post adrenaline calm pervades and the Tuskers are far easier to imbibe.

The magnificent lush green Montain forest envelops the surrounds in a kind of fairyland splendor and strange sounds emanate from unseen fauna hiding in the canopies.

Of course Gareth, myself and Jerry were here to fish, whilst also filming a TV show on what Kenya offers sport fishers.

I’ve often wondered at the passion for fly fishing that saw the early colonials going to such unbelievable lengths to introduce Trout into remote and extreme areas like New Zealand, Chile, South Africa and Kenya. I mean didn’t they have anything better to do? There they were, busy taming wilderness areas full of dangerous animals, unfriendly locals and tropical diseases, yet they had time to consider sending tiny eggs on rickety boats from Europe to hatch out and then introduce these temperamental salmanoids into rivers and streams all over the world! You’ve just got to appreciate that if you’re a fisherman.

With its altitude and gin clear water, Mount Kenya has the perfect habitat for Trout to breed and thrive. One strain of Rainbows has proliferated in these cold source waters, in particular the Ragati River. Called the Ragati Red, at first glance it looks like a spawning male in full colour, but in fact even the females carry the telltale red markings year round. I wanted one of those in my net!

We spent our first night in the National Park at the famous Serena Mountain Lodge. Built in the 70’s entirely out of wood with sweeping views of the mountain overlooking a waterhole frequented by Buffalo and Elephant, it’s like stepping back in time. There are no TV’s, but the walls between rooms are flimsy enough to be intimately involved in your neighbor’s proclivities, which can be more interesting anyway and there are no irritating adverts.

At first light we fired up the trusty Land Cruiser and headed into the Ragati Conservancy forest. Stopping only to chop trees that had fallen across the muddy tracks we soon arrived at a charming log cabin tucked away and reached by crossing a small wooden walk bridge over a crystal fast flowing stream that we knew held Trout. This was home for the next few days.

 

 

Of course Gareth, as is his wont, rigged his rod with lightning speed and blundered immediately into the nearest water, frightening not only the fish, but the local ghillies as well, who are there to spot for dangerous animals as well as fish.

Allowing Gareth only enough time to snag his fly in the nearest tree, Jerry calmly wandered down to the same pool right in front of the cabin and poached a beautiful Rainbow from right under his nose.

Things were going along as normal

 

 

The dense forest and narrow streams mean that fishing here is technical, with short accurate roll casts being used often. Most back casts will result in unpleasant expletives and lost flies. Even walking in the stream itself the overhanging canopy remains a challenge.

But very soon we realized even the thinnest lie or smallest pool could produce plump specimens happy to hold in the frigid water and eager for a meal to arrive.

It’s easy to be mesmerized by the brilliantly coloured Turaco’s and Parrots fluttering around overhead amongst various species of monkey, but the steaming piles of elephant dung on the narrow paths are a reminder to keep your wits about you. There is good reason why its mandatory to have a local guide with you at all times, although to be honest they are armed only with a machete, which I wasn’t certain would suffice in the case of a startled buffalo in tight confines.

 

 

The night sky is breathtaking in its scope and clarity, but the eerie screams of the nocturnal Tree Hyraxes found here are a little unnerving at first.

The beautifully appointed 4-bedroom log cabin with a large open fireplace is available for hire on either a self -catering or fully catered basis. We were spoiled by the owners with fantastic fare and hospitality. I particularly appreciated the fine linen on the massive beds which made it rather more difficult than necessary to consider throwing a line for the early morning rise.

I’m not sure who coined the phrase “size doesn’t count”, but I do know they didn’t fish.

The Ragati River flows into a large dam on the lower slopes with plenty of space for casting, and more importantly, flat areas for positioning the cold box. It was to this area I gravitated while the youngsters explored the many pristine forest streams.

Only steps away from my cooler I was able to put in long raking exquisitely timed casts while simultaneously enjoying the solitude and a cold Tusker. After hours of patient practice, I can even do this sitting down.

It wasn’t long before a large Mrs. Simpson I had judiciously appropriated from Jeremy’s box worked her magic and my line went tight. I knew immediately it was a decent fish, but it was only when I had it a little closer to the bank that I could see the dark red flanks of a magnificent Ragati Red cock fish. Around 5 pounds of pure muscle, this was to be the trophy of our time at Mount Kenya and certainly a fish I shall remember always.

 

Fortunately, I had a cameraman with me, so had photographic proof to present to my mates around the fire that evening. Not that they wouldn’t have taken my word for it of course.

So if you’re ever at a loose end in Kenya, I strongly recommend you try to get up to the Mountain and the Ragati Conservancy (bookings@ragati.com).

Even if you don’t fish it’s a magical experience.

My only advice would be to hire a helicopter to get there if possible.

Tigers have always been my preferred fresh water species to catch on fly and my meagre pen just isn’t capable of adequately describing that adrenalin inducing experience. But on a whim late last year I decided to do something completely different.

So I told my wife I loved her.

The immediate look of suspicion had me wondering if I’d gone too far. And then the moment passed.

When I say passed, I mean in terms of the age old male practice of accruing fishing credits, the actual payment moment had passed. Of course it would have been remiss of me to not to use such a valuable and well- earned credit…..so, what to do?

After much soul searching with my old friend Glen Livet, it dawned on me. I needed a new species!

Why a new species? Firstly, that’s what we do. We go out with a sliver of graphite and a roll of string, to which we attach a bunch of feathers and a hook and see how many different species we can fool into eating it. Simple. But in this case it was more about being able to inveigle the missus into thinking I had a really important mission to accomplish.

Accordingly, at what seemed opportune moments, I began to punctuate long sighs with dreamy whispers of all the things I still had left to do in the fast fading years of my life.

A card that can only be played once. With all my guile and cunning, I implored and begged like a blind sunglass salesman knocking on your car window, until finally one day with a magnanimous huff, the old girl gave in.

I had the legendary Vundu in mind!

More people have climbed Everest than have hooked and landed a Vundu on fly. Was this not a worthy quest indeed?

Incredulously from my life long fishing buddies, the suggestion was met with a kind off sniggering disbelief, if not downright rudeness. So, when in doubt, go to plan T…….For Tiger. It wasn’t difficult to get the boys excited about an end of year excursion back to their favourite Tiger hunting ground on the lower Zambezi.

Deception was the preferred strategy for this adventure.

Our motley crew landed at Old Mondoro. Greeted by intense heat. We couldn’t get the ice into our g&t’s fast enough.

Early mornings and late afternoons were the only times a human could withstand the fierce sun. So these were the hours we fished. But, like any long con, I did not immediately sally forth in search of the main prize, rather tested my tackle on token Tigers, biding my time.

Spending long hours on siesta and at the dining table, always staying close to the cold box, I slowly built up my inner reserves and hydrated my parched body in readiness for the arduous task ahead. Enduring the taunting jibes of my buddies as their tally’s rose and weights increased, until it was time

I checked my trusty 9 weight and stole a big black brush fly from Jerry’s box. Made sure my knots were secure and the hook sharp. Cleaned my sunnies, checked the cold box again and sauntered nonchalantly down to the boat.

On the second drift of the day I saw the spot………serendipity.

Overhanging branches and submerged trees meant taking a chance. So I did. The false cast was tight and precise. The large fly gracefully whistled through the air and threaded through the structure like a well- aimed missile, landing just inches from the bank.

On the first confident retrieve the water exploded where the fly had been so judiciously presented. With pounding heart I set the hook and watched in awe as the massive fish moved away from the shallows peeling line as it swam for deeper water. Tension. On the line and washing over me.

This monster was too big to muscle and the 9 weight didn’t have the backbone to lift it easily to the surface. Wait and hope. Two mind numbing km downstream the great fish finally tired and we managed to bring it on board. 50 pounds of quivering Vundu.

Mission complete, my Prize Vundu

I had climbed my Everest. Alone and unsupported.

Not one to gloat, I sheathed my wand, opened a beer and let others tell the story. When they got some details wrong I magnanimously assisted in jogging memories.

My mates continued to pound the water in a desperate effort to save some face, but in truth the fight had gone out of them. Even then they knew the biggest fresh water fish of the season on fly was now beyond their frantic efforts.

I offered sage advice of course, who wouldn’t in my position, understanding that the wisdom so hard earned could assist others on their long road to fishing enlightenment? Grudging acknowledgment of my achievement was all they would give in return. And that was only after studying the photos for a long time.

No matter, I am home now and can rest content that my mates will never again snigger at any outlandish suggestion I make

So in some small way my quest has made a difference, all my sacrifices seem worthwhile….

I’m of to tell that to the missus…….and to mention that I love her.

Alphonse, A Place of Beauty and Mayhem

I was very fortunate to visit Alphonse Island in the Seychelles last week. Alphonse has to be one of the top five fishing destinations on earth, with the fantastic variety and numbers of fish on and around the atoll.

The thing that always strikes me when I visit this amazing area is that it is so much more than a fishing trip. Every day spent on the flats is like doing a wilderness walking trail in a shallow water, marine environment.

You get blown away by the sheer beauty of your surroundings. The islands consist of the whitest of coral sand beaches, with lush green coconut palms fringing them. Then you step out onto the shallow flats, where you soon become accustomed to seeing a variety of marine life around you at all times. There are rays, turtles and sharks, all cruising in water less than knee deep. If you look up to the sky at any time, you are likely to see fairy terns, tropicbirds, frigate birds, boobies and a variety of other tropical sea birds flying around. On the reef edges herons and egrets stalk small fish in the pools.

Walking the flats in search of feeding fish, such as bonefish, permit, triggerfish, milkfish and GT’s, is an amazing experience. A guide, who is attuned to the environment, and who seems to spot and identify fish that are little more than a vague shadow drifting across the sand or turtle grass, accompanies you. He points out fish that you can cast to, when they appear, or just entertains you as he feeds you information on the creatures and fish that you are seeing.

We had some dodgy weather while we were there. A cyclone moving around the northern part of Madagascar was creating havoc with the weather systems in the Indian Ocean, making our job a bit more challenging. The squalls seemed to be constantly around. If you stopped at any time and looked around you, you would see anywhere between four and six patches of rain and cloud in the area. When these came over us, the visibility of fish in the water became very limited, due to the reflected glare off the surface. At these times we relied more upon seeing tails breaking the surface, or bow waves as fish moved in the shallow water.

When the clouds moved on, it was like somebody switched on the lights, with fish suddenly being easy to spot, all around us.

We had some really good fun catching bonefish on small flies in the shallows. These fish move onto the flats as they flood with the incoming tide, taking advantage of abundant food in the form of crabs shrimp and mollusks, which inhabit the flats. They are fairly skittish fish, which need to be carefully stalked to within casting distance. The cast needs to be accurate and well presented, in order to not spook the fish. Dropping the fly ahead of a moving fish, and allowing the fish to get near the fly before moving it generally did the trick.

Once hooked, the bones showed us why they have been held in such high regard by flyfishers the world over for so long. They sped off with unbelievable acceleration, trying to get away to the safety of deeper water. Causing the line to rip through the water, kicking up a rooster tail of spray as it went.

I thoroughly enjoyed catching a number of bones, relishing the speed and power of these elusive fish, known as the ghosts of the flats, due to their ability to be almost invisible, even in the shallowest of water.

I also spent some time doing some blue water fishing from one of Alphonse Fishing Company’s fine boats. We trolled teasers in the beautiful blue water, sometimes no more than a hundred metres from the reef edge. I stole a glance at the echo sounder, and saw that we were in 70m of water, unbelievable! We raised sailfish every time we tried for them, and I managed to land two of these magnificent fighting fish on fly.

A real highlight for me was landing three wahoo on fly as well. These fish take off with unbelievable speed, tearing through the water, making the line peel off the reel at a rate that is nothing short of exhilarating. Those are moments that I will never forget!

I also caught some wahoo on small stickbaits, cast with light tackle. The thin braided line had very little resistance in the water and the speed with which the wahoo tore off was absolutely breathtaking. These amazing fish are so underrated in my opinion, Probably because most of them are caught on very heavy billfish trolling tackle.

I also had some fun catching yellowfin tuna on conventional tackle, casting stickbaits to them and marveling at the smash, where the fish would come rocketing out of the water with the lure clenched between its teeth.

The time went by too quickly and before I knew it, we were on the plane, heading home. I sat and reflected on how incredible the fishery was, despite the fact that the lodge at Alphonse is basically booked up every fishing season. Credit has to go to the excellent management of the fishery by Alphonse Fishing Company. They limit the number of rods that fish on St Francois atoll each day to twelve, ensuring that there is never too much pressure on the delicate system. They take the utmost care of each and every fish, ensuring that it is none the worse for the experience of having been caught. It is a very slick and professional operation, with some of the world’s finest guides plying their trade there.

It is somehow comforting to know that the whole experience will most likely be just as good for anglers coming there in years to come, thanks to the careful conservation and respect that the guides have for the environment and the fish.

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